Irish Republican News · May 10, 2013
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Prosecutors condemned after retrial acquittal
Prosecutors condemned after retrial acquittal

shiverscleared.jpg

Brian Shivers has been fully vindicated after the terminally ill Magherafelt man walked out of Belfast Crown Court last Friday, his lawyer said this week.

The acquittal in the non-jury case came after the Court of Appeal had quashed guilty verdicts at Mr Shivers’s original trial. It means both of the prosecutions in the aftermath of the ‘Real IRA’ Massereene attack of 2009 have failed to secure a conviction.

In his judgment, Justice Donnell Deeny strongly questioned elements of the forensic evidence presented by the prosecution after new evidence cast doubt on its veracity.

Outside court, Mr Shivers’s lawyer said his client “has suffered the horror of having been wrongfully convicted in what now must be described as a miscarriage of justice.”

Mr Shivers was originally tried in a non-jury case at Antrim Crown Court alongside high-profile republican Colin Duffy. Mr Duffy was acquitted of all charges at the original trial.

At both trials, the prosecution case against Mr Shivers was based on DNA evidence on matchsticks and a mobile phone discovered in and around the partially burned-out getaway vehicle used in the shooting.

However, Mr Justice Deeny noted a number of mistakes in how the forensic exhibits had been collected and that there had been different interpretations of the DNA evidence presented.

The head of Mr Shivers’ legal team referred to other acquittals in the north involving DNA evidence, and strongly criticised the prosecution services.

Standing beside Mr Shivers at the gates of the Laganside court complex, Niall Murphy said the original convictions had been overturned on a “narrow legal basis”.

“But it was only during his retrial that important new material was disclosed which completely undermined the case against him,” Mr Murphy said.

“This failed prosecution - another failed prosecution - is a cautionary tale against the reliance upon tenuous scientific evidence in high-profile criminal cases.”

Mr Murphy also said his client had not received appropriate medical care during the year he spent in side Maghaberry prison in County Antrim following his original convictions.

“He was sentenced to a life term of imprisonment which would have seen him die in prison,” he said.

“He is a seriously ill man and when he was in prison he was persistently denied access to medication and access to medical facilities.”

CRAIGAVON TWO LAWYERS SEEK CCRC ROLE

With public attention once again focused on the actions of Crown prosecutors in the North, all eyes are now on the pending appeal by two men, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, against their conviction for a Continuity IRA attack in Craigavon. That attack took place two days after the Massereene ambush and both cases were brought amid draconian attempts to secure convictions.

Lawyers for the men known as the ‘Craigavon Two’ are seeking an order for the Criminal Cases Review Commission to examine the PSNI arrest and intimidation of a new witness in the case. They are also making a separate application to the Police Ombudsman to look into the operation.

Last week Appeal Court judges were told the PSNI had tried to sabotage the appeals with the arrest of the new witness -- who was held and interrogated for two days -- and the inevitable legal tussle over his evidence.

This man has made a sworn court statement branding his relative a compulsive liar. The PSNI arrested him in an evident bid to force him to withdrawing his evidence, warning him he would be discredited if he testified.

Lawyers for the two men now want the Court of Appeal to direct the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to examine these events. Judges listed their application for a hearing next Wednesday.

© 2013 Irish Republican News